Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mental Repository

During Rosh Hashana services this week, a thought hit me. I was sitting in the "free seats", and found myself amongst a group of young FFBs. They were an interesting group: they were very adept at davening and one girl even kindly relinquished her seat to a girl who was obviously much less frum so that the latter could rest. So I started thinking about what davening must be like from a Yeshivish girl's perspective.

While I grew up in a Modern Orthodox household, when I went away to university I fryed out. As a result, I have an archive in my head of film, art, music, etc. that takes up mental real estate. At the unlikeliest times, such as when I'm tired, upset, or otherwise easily distracted, I find my brain shifts over to that repository. I subsequently find that when davening or learning, I need to continuously exert effort in order to remain focussed on the spiritual matters at hand. In short, my davening is very often compromised. So I began to think of how much easier Rosh Hashana must be for my fellow congregants, because I know that personally I was exhausted and found my mind constantly drifting in directions it should not have drifted. Like the latest commercial for "Gossip Girl" I happened upon the other day...

Yet these girls, unburdened by such a mental library, can daven freely, consistently, with the correct kavannah- at least, they can if they want.While some of my davening was focussed and meaningful this week, it took tremendous effort on my part to maintain for an extended period of time. It would be so nice to be unfettered like these girls. That is why I was thrilled when my DH picked up a pamphlet containing an excerpt from "Praying with Fire- Part 2" as we exited shul. Just what I need, and not a moment too soon.

When all is said and done, I recognise that it is common to be distracted during davening. And while I wish I remained as mentally pure as these girls, I realise that like it or not, I'm not. So I concluded that really the choice I face is the same as theirs: I can focus myself on davening and enhancing my relationship with my Creator, or I can let myself be distracted. The reality is that I may have this library that could pop up and ruin my concentration- but everyone has such a library. Your job, your family, your best friend, your mortgage, your bills- a stack of daily life is ready, willing, and able to infiltrate our minds at any moment. Such is the nature of life.

So I decided this Rosh Hashana that maybe what I need to improve upon this year, bli neder, is my davening itself. And one tactic I'm hoping to try out is to remind myself that while I was formerly a patron, the library is unfortunately now closed. At least until after davening.

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